In the long and storied history of bacon, at no point has it enjoyed such a moment in the sun as it is right now. One of the most popular foods in existence, cured and smoked pork belly seems to be everywhere you turn. But there are plenty of other varieties of bacon out there, made from other animals as well as vegetable-based proteins and even one fruit that might surprise you. We've rounded up types of bacon that are completely pig-free.
Until relatively recently, bacon was simply an unhealthy breakfast meat that was typically served alongside a hearty Sunday breakfast. Sure, it might show up in a quiche, club sandwich or Cobb salad, but even those are relatively recent inventions. Then one day some evil genius decided to add a couple slices to a cheeseburger, and Pandora’s box was officially opened. Today, bacon shows up in everything from macaroni and cheese to ice cream, from pizza to donut burgers, and honestly, it’s gotten a little out of hand. As a meme, bacon is so overblown that people are simply getting exhausted of it, and topping something with bacon is anything but outrageous these days.
But lost within all the pandemonium is that fact that protein that’s been cured and smoked is astoundingly delicious, and that doesn’t just apply to pork belly. There are plenty of reasons why you might opt to eat non-pork bacon: religious dietary restrictions, a vegetarian lifestyle, etc., but there are just as many reasons to ask why not? There are lots of different types of bacon out there, and we have every right to enjoy as many varieties as possible.
If you’ve been a bit wary of expanding your bacon horizons, ask yourself: why? If you’ve never eaten soy or tempeh-based “facon,” give it a shot. It’s healthier and still more or less hits all the right notes. As for bacon made from other animals, don’t go into it thinking that it’ll taste identical to pork; think of it as a completely different food product altogether. Once you look at it that way, you’ll realize that just about any meat is delicious when given the bacon treatment.
Yes, someone figured out how to create coconut bacon. A company called Phoney Baloney’s raised money to produce this via an Indiegogo campaign, and voila, now it exists. Made from coconut, tamari, maple syrup, liquid smoke, and grapeseed oil, it actually looks a little like chopped up bacon. It doesn’t respond well to heat or liquid, though, so the producers advise topping salads, sandwiches, or baked potatoes with it.
Until very recently, beef bacon has only been available through Halal butchers, but lately it’s been creeping its way onto supermarket shelves more and more. You can find it at your local Whole Foods. Beef bacon is typically made from the navel (the same fatty cut used for pastrami), and is treated basically the same as pork. The resulting product actually tastes pretty close to beef jerky.
The original non-pork bacon, turkey bacon gets no respect. As opposed to whole pieces of meat, turkey bacon is made from turkey that’s been smoked, chopped up, and re-formed into strips. It has a low fat content (around 10 percent), and doesn’t shrink when cooked like regular bacon does. It tastes fine, but isn’t much of a substitute when served alongside eggs. The best application for turkey bacon is on a sandwich like a BLT or club, where it can add its nice smoky flavor without being too dominant.
4. Soy Protein
Companies like MorningStar have figured out a way to produce a semi-reasonable facsimile of bacon using textured soy protein as a base, mixed up with other stuff like egg whites, soybean oil, wheat gluten, vegetable protein, sodium tripolyphosphate, monocalcium phosphate, and cyanocobalamin. For vegetarians desperate for something vaguely resembling bacon, we see how this can come in handy, but meat-eaters might want to stick with, well, meat.
Duck bacon, made from duck breast, is some seriously good stuff. The most popular variety is uncured and produced by D’Artagnan, and to make it they take whole moulard duck breasts, give them a salt and sugar rub, smoke them over wood chips, and thinly slice them. The result is smoky with a great meaty texture, and is supremely versatile. Smoked duck breast in general is pretty great.
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